What Should Your On-Hold Sound Like?

On-Hold Options


This TED video from Julian Treasure has a lot to teach about the use of sound in business. Take a moment to watch it, and then I’ll point out a few ways you can make the most of this information.


First, you may have noticed some pretty big numbers….a drop of 66 percent in productivity in open-plan office environments and a sales drop of up to 28 percent in a retail environment when inappropriate sound is present.

I especially liked his observation that we, “…move away from unpleasant sound and toward comfortable sounds.”

Telephone Sound is one of eight types of commercial sound that Treasure talks about. If you haven’t thought about the rest of your soundscape, your phone sound signature is a good place to start. A Caller Experience expert can help craft your phone sound to be a reflection of your business goals. You can go from there into more purposeful and directed tactics for every other element of sound in the business.

If you already have a unique soundscape in your advertising, in-store experience, products and services, you’ve made that expert’s job easier, but no less urgent.

Crafting and producing an On-Hold message is not good territory for Do-It-Yourself business marketers. As a business owner, you’re likely only to mention information that’s important to you, while failing to take a customer-centric view. You risk falling into instruction mode instead of taking an informative and (if appropriate) entertaining strategy.

But not all On-Hold message companies are created equal. Here are some of the pitfalls to watch out for from any On-Hold provider:


  • They offer “canned,” pre-produced, or fill-in-the-blank messages.
  • They expect the business owner to write the scripts.
  • They leave it up to you to remember to make changes to your message throughout the year.
  • They make no attempt to customize your message to match the sound signature of your business and other marketing efforts.
  • They provide equipment that doesn’t allow instant updates, flexible scheduling, and constant monitoring.


A great On-Hold message provider will:


  • Thoroughly uncover the key values of the business.
  • Dig deep enough to find the important facts for the message.
  • Provide turn-key support and quick response for updating messages.
  • Provide advanced playback equipment.
  • Monitor your system’s actual playback on a regular basis.


I like Treasure’s first three golden rules of commercial sound:


  1. Make it congruent (with the core values and other sound elements of the business).
  2. Make it appropriate (to the intended listeners).
  3. Make it valuable (by offering more than a caller expected to hear).


So, what’s holding you back?

If you’re abusing your customers by delivering a bad phone experience, it is one of the easiest marketing touch points to fix.

If you’re not sure what kind of experience you’re delivering, get it evaluated.

If you currently offer flat, dead silence, that’s the best place to start.

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